Will Wearables Save Healthcare?
We all know that healthcare costs have risen at an alarming rate over the last 20 years. And this might be a reason for alarm. But, if you look at the percentage of the increase related to diagnostic tests and corrective instead of preventative treatments, there’s reason for hope. And that reason lies in the new world of wearable technology that will alert us to problems and motivate us to make lifestyle changes before we get sick.
What the economists are missing is the impact that wearable diagnostics are going to have on healthcare costs. You know about Fitbit, the app that helps you get in shape by tracking the number of steps you take, tracks your heart rate, calories burned, and stairs climbed. More recent innovations are the Sensoria Smart Sock, which diagnoses your running stride to avoid injury-prone running styles. And, the PerformTek heart-rate monitor which uses biometric sensor technology to measure your heart-rate while doing any exercise and in any environment.
Sleep troubles? The Withing’s Aura sleep pad diagnoses the quality of your REM cycle and helps you to wake up easily at the best time in your sleep cycle. An app by Sleeprate assesses the quality of your sleep and provides you with a sleep improvement plan. And if you’ve failed at your attempts to meditate, you might try the Muse headband which has an EEG device that measures brainwaves, and coaches you into a calm state of mind.
Better yet, there may soon be a device that can monitor all these things and more. Ten different companies from around the world are competing for the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize awarded to the first company to develop a Tricorder. The winning product design will be able to monitor vital bodily functions such as temperature and heart rate and accurately diagnosis 16 health conditions including diabetes, stroke, and anemia.
If you have ever been misdiagnosed, you will be happy to hear that IBM’s Watson Supercomputer may soon be the best doctor in the world. At this moment, Watson is busy absorbing medical literature and is helping doctors make proper diagnoses and offer remedies. IBM expects to put the program in the Cloud, where it will be accessible to, among other things, mobile devices.
When the next generation of wearable diagnostics uploads to Watson for instant analysis we will be able to have our health monitored in real-time. These devices will be more affordable and will be much lighter on the global healthcare budget. They will be able to do tasks such as schedule a medical exam or call for an ambulance if you experience early symptoms of heart attack or stroke. Ultimately, healthcare diagnostics and treatments will be cheaper, because of early detection.
How many billions of dollars will this save? It’s probably too early to tell, but many industries are forever changed by disruptive technologies such as these – think music, cameras and phones. Sounds like a healthcare revolution to me.
Note: This blog post was inspired by Bob Veres Client letter